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Takeaways from an Irish Locksmith Listing Spam Scandal

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Takeaways from an Irish Locksmith Listing Spam Scandal

The author’s views are entirely their own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.

“I did what people normally would do — Googled ‘locksmiths near me.’”

These telltale words preface a scandalous account of listing spam I recently ran into on an Irish call-in radio show on RTÉ. I’m going to share a summary of it in today’s column, offer my best understanding of the root of the problem, and close with takeaways both for consumers and for local business owners who operate in Your-Money-Or-Your-Life (YMYL) industries, like security.

When local search reads like a mystery novel

Host, Katie Hannon, and her team did a good job of structuring this unfolding mystery on the Liveline with Joe Duffy show. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would definitely have gotten hooked into this plot.

Caller #1

On a bank holiday, a woman came home to find herself locked out of her house. She called the first locksmith she found on the web. The locksmith told her the lock cylinder needed to be replaced, did the work, and 5-6 minutes later, presented her with a bill for €391 ($419.35 USD). She had been so frazzled by the ordeal, that it wasn’t until the next day that she began to wonder why the charge was so high, but when she re-contacted the company to ask for a breakdown of the cost, she was informed that while the fee might appear large, it reflected the expertise of their staff.

Later, a licensed locksmith would confirm for the customer that, on a bank holiday, the charge should have been about €200.

Caller #2

“I did what people normally would do – Googled ‘locksmiths near me.’ I needed it done as quickly as I could. I took the first one that popped up. I spoke with a young lady, and she said she’d have someone get in touch with me,” said the next caller of his experience of hiring a locksmith when his door handle stopped working, when questioned about the locksmith’s online presence, he answered, “It looks very professional with very good reviews. There was certainly nothing to warn you.”

After a series of non-fixes, the locksmith got the caller’s door open but said he’d leave it without any lock unless the customer was willing to pay for replacement of the mechanism. Not wanting to risk having a door that couldn’t be made secure, the customer found himself with a bill for €1,143 ($1,225.87 USD) and began to worry he’d been overcharged when friends remarked that he could have gotten a whole new door for that amount.

Later, a licensed locksmith would confirm that the charge for the work should have totaled less than €500.

Caller #3

When one woman needed a rusty door lock replaced, she did what most of us would do,

“I just Googled ‘Dublin locksmith.’ It had reviews and everything.”

The locksmith who arrived charged her €60 for the service call but told her he’d need to order a €400 ($429 USD) replacement lock. When some days had gone by with no follow-up, she re-located the Google Business Profile she’d clicked on and again spoke to a receptionist. The receptionist told her she’d need to email the man on the invoice she’d received, but when her email went unanswered, the customer set out to find the elusive locksmith.

Via the Internet, she located a street address, and that took her to the house of a completely different person…

The Case of the Retired Locksmith

Mysterious profile with question mark and key

Caller #4 was the gentleman whom the woman with the rusty door lock found at the Dublin residence, and he is a retired licensed locksmith who served the industry for 45 years. I won’t do screenshots in this piece, but my own research confirmed that he appears to be the victim of impersonation via a Google Business Profile, and other local business listings. The top-ranked listing I found for the search in question featured the retired locksmith’s name and a 4-star rating on the basis of some questionable reviews + a few complaints.

It turns out that not only does the retired licensed locksmith know about this scandal, but he has felt so upset by customers being overcharged by the alleged impersonator, that he has been going to their homes to explain that he is not the service person they contacted and to offer them advice on what steps they might take. He is proud of the reputation he worked hard to build over more than four decades and is understandably unhappy to find his good name being tarnished, saying,

“I wouldn’t have survived this long in business if I had given a bad service to people.”

He has reported the issue to the authorities but has yet to receive a response, and unfortunately, there isn’t much he can tell these homeowners to do. In most cases, they did receive the work they paid for, but the charges simply were not commensurate with industry standards.

Google… I don’t know how they operate their business

During the radio program, Caller #5 phoned in to say that she, too, is a licensed locksmith, and has had four local people reach out to her lately after apparently receiving outrageous charges for basic services from this same entity. She stated:

“Google, I feel, is partly responsible for providing disinformation, but I don’t know how they operate their business. I would really like to know what is going on beneath all this because I do feel that there is an establishment that may be running companies like this. They’ve seen a niche in the market, and they’ve grabbed onto it, and they are making an absolute fortune. They’re unlicensed, and they are ripping people off.”

And therein lies a very large key to this common problem. Neither consumers nor legitimate business owners in this case (and in many) have a clear idea of what Google’s omnipresent local search results consist of, how they are ranked, or how often they contain spam.

Vulnerabilities in Google’s local search platform make it quite possible for a scenario like this one to take place, of an individual apparently spoofing the identity of another company and creating a listing around it. It’s also possible to hijack the listing of another business and insert your own phone number so that you receive the calls that should be going to your competitor. It’s possible to pay for fake reviews that make a dubious business look trustworthy, and as my honored colleague Joy Hawkins recently reported, you can repeatedly spam Google’s review component without any lasting consequences.

Lack of meaningful competition in the local search space has not motivated Google to fix this problem of listing spam over the past several decades, despite volumes of reporting both by major media outlets and industry journalists. At the same time, Google has never succeeded at widely engaging with or offering adequate support to the millions of local business owners whose data they use to populate their local search results. No matter how many times they rebrand and reshape local search, Google just isn’t getting the basics right to create a trustworthy, manageable platform or consumer experience.

So, where does that leave local business owners and Google users?

The cause and effect of local online scams

worried faces in neighborhood

“You have to be so careful about who you have come to your home to fix a lock or deal with your security.” Katie Hannon, RTÉ host

Misinformation, disinformation, and web spam are a threat to public safety in YMYL scenarios. I remember writing an article nearly twenty years ago about having a medical emergency and realizing that Google’s local pack results were full of inaccurate listings for ERs and hospitals. And clearly, when it comes to home security, no one would want someone untrustworthy working on their locks.

Meanwhile, I was listening to another Irish call-in show recently in which guests had lost tens of thousands of euros to scammers allegedly claiming to be from the online finance app Revolut, and the subsequent nightmare they’ve gone through in realizing that even the real Revolut isn’t like a real-world local back with an office and phone number you can contact for emergency help if you’re robbed.

Imagine spending 12 hours with a chatbot because it’s the only source of customer service available to you after having $10,000 dollars taken from your account! One of these callers even wondered afterward if the person she was speaking to at the scam company was a real human being or AI with a Dublin accent. Scenarios like these seem to me to stem from and create the following cascade:

  1. Civil societies function on members having a certain degree of respect for authority, whether the authorities are teachers, medical experts, licensed professionals, or government leaders.

  2. Many members of society have mistaken tech companies and their products for authorities, implicitly trusting that if something is as big and powerful as Google, it must be vetted, regulated, accurate, and authoritative.

  3. In non-daily circumstances like suddenly needing a lock changed, having a medical emergency, or thinking your finances might have been compromised, people are flustered. They reach out for the quickest possible help to get themselves out of trouble and are not in any state to use their best critical thinking. Very intelligent people who say they would normally know not to give out sensitive information to strangers find themselves doing so in emergencies.

  4. Because scammers know people are vulnerable during a time of stress, they build business models around exploiting others during these episodes.

  5. This is a global problem that no government, regulatory body, or tech company has effectively solved. It has been nearly 20 years since Google Maps first appeared, and in the US, there are still no meaningful consequences for a search engine that profits from publishing spam that fools, misleads, misdirects, and even harms people. Regulation does not keep pace with rapid technological development.

  6. Invested tech companies are now actively worsening this problem by presenting AI as an authoritative source of information rather than as an amalgamation of whatever data it has been fed, good or bad, real or not real. If countless people have already been scammed by others who use platforms like Google Business Profile to misrepresent themselves via spam listings and reviews, there’s pretty much no end to what bad actors could do with the opportunities AI will offer to spoof legitimate entities to disastrous consequence.

The effects of scams on communities are deeply serious. Scams undermine how humans feel about the societies they live in. Living in a setting in which people have to be constantly suspicious of their neighbors is stressful, and long-term stress undermines physical health. Some callers I listened to expressed shame at having been fooled, and others were reticent about admitting to anyone that they were swindled for fear of looking out-of-step with the times and the tech. All of them suffered financially, which is especially difficult in Ireland right now given that its people are experiencing what they call a “cost of living crisis,” which appears to have its same root as the 40-year transfer-of-wealth scam American economists cite as the cause of our present state of poverty in the US.

Thieves have always existed. The internet has simply allowed them to scale up and cause harm to vast numbers of people. When societies are unprepared and unprotected from swindles, an unfortunate outcome is that people have to look out for themselves (a very anti-social state of affairs that improves life for no one), but this is where I believe we’re at in the absence of better regulation, and I’ve got a few tips to share.

Tips for increased safety amid Google Business Profile spam

Neighbors talking to one another on front porch.

Let’s start with tips for customers folks like you and me who are using the internet to navigate our local landscape:

1. Understand that spam is widespread on Google

    Know that it is very easy to create illegitimate Google Business Profile listings and that a recent large-scale study by Uberall found that Google is the platform with the highest percentage of suspicious local business reviews. Know that Google does not have adequate safeguards in place to identify and remove fraudulent information from their product. The local results you see when you search for nearby businesses may well contain both fake listings and fake reviews and do not deserve your unqualified trust.

    2. In a quiet moment, create a list

      To protect yourself from being manipulated in a time of stress, consider the types of sudden incidents that take people unawares at some point or another in many of our lives. These might include:

      • Medical incidents requiring emergency assistance

      • Auto accidents and malfunctions requiring roadside assistance, auto repairs, and sometimes legal assistance

      • Security needs, like locksmith assistance or home security malfunctions

      • Damages from weather events like storms or fires, requiring rescue or urgent remediation services

      • Household malfunctions like septic overflows or plumbing problems, garage door failures, major appliance repairs or replacements, and other needs that require urgent assistance

      • Financial emergencies, such as fearing your banking card has been lost or stolen

      It may sound like I’m trying to turn back the hands of the clock to pre-internet times, but at this point, you will be better off writing a list of the names, phone numbers, and addresses of reputable resources and keeping a copy of it in your wallet, purse, vehicle, and home rather than trusting random local business listings for YMYL scenarios. You could definitely put the list on your mobile phone, but you might want a paper copy as well in case your phone gets hacked, lost, or runs out of juice.

      When you are not in the middle of an emergency, you can thoroughly research and contact your options to vet them. You can ask your friends and family for recommendations. And if you are traveling even a little distance from home, you can make such a list to protect yourself from being scammed in an unfamiliar setting.

      In short, Google may be fine for helping find a quick cup of coffee or a slice of pizza, but don’t trust the local packs or Google Maps if your money, health, bank account, or life is at stake. Don’t invest Google’s results with an authority or accuracy they don’t possess. As a seasoned local SEO, I don’t like having to say this, but it’s my honest take on the state of affairs.

      3. Start relying more on people in your life and less on the internet for YMYL decisions

      Speaking of ethical scandals, we all need to be bracing ourselves right now. Large publishers you once trusted for vetted, fact-checked information that is hand-researched and hand-written by experts and authorities, may be making decisions right now to replace some of their staff with AI. We are already seeing results in the form of shocking pieces being published like this one (now removed) from Microsoft, which advised tourists to Ottawa to enjoy visiting a local food bank on an empty stomach.

      The combination of spam local business listings and reviews + the increase of what could be a real mess of AI-generated nonsense in both chat-based and organic results could mean you should be very careful of letting the internet be your guide when making decisions that involve your life, health, money, security, or major purchases. Publishers have profit goals in view in replacing human authors with AI-generated information, but you need recommendations from people who have your best interests in mind. And that, of course, lands you back in the circle of your friends and family.

      You are likely better off asking your mother, your neighbor, or your friend from work where to find a trustworthy outfit to replace your broken windshield than you are asking ChatGPT, Bard, New Bing, local listings, or organic results. You are likely better off steering clear of the web and asking your existing doctor where to find a specialist, if the need arises. Word-of-mouth recommendations are a tried-and-true method that long pre-dates the internet of finding reliable help, and it works on the basis of trusting that real people in your life want the best for you. They may not always get it right, but lived experiences are a rich source of useful information we all can share.

      4. Know that asking to see credentials is not bad manners

      Know the licensing laws of your country and/or state and request that any service provider show you proof of their credentials before you contract with them. I’ve heard kind people say they worry it sounds rude to ask for this documentation, but remember that legitimate service providers have to go through all kinds of steps to earn their credentials, and they will not be in any way annoyed by sharing the results of their efforts to be compliant with regulations. These credentials set them apart from scammers they already know exist in their geographic markets. If a potential contractor makes a fuss about proving they are licensed, it’s a red flag to you that they don’t have the necessary proof.

      In sum, the internet can be a great place for local consumers to browse their communities and connect with local businesses, but when it comes to specific high-risk categories and transactions, you will be safer if you do your research ahead of sudden events and make sure you are working with licensed professionals with legitimate business credentials and contact information.

      Stainless steel water bottle with business branding

      Now let’s turn to the local business side of this story. What can you do if you know your Google Business Profile categories are polluted with spammers, putting your neighbors and potential customers at risk of being scammed?

      1. Report what you can

        This shouldn’t be part of your job description; it should be Google’s responsibility to keep their index as free as possible from spam listings and reviews that violate their own guidelines. Nevertheless, you can report spammers to Google, and sometimes they will act on those reports, and that may help you move up in the local rankings. However, do go into this knowing Google often won’t act and that spammers will often simply come back. It’s not ideal, but you do have the following options for reporting:

        • Use the Business Redressal Complaint Form to report Google listings you are convinced are spam and in violation of the guidelines, or review profiles you believe are the result of forbidden activities.

        • If three weeks pass and you have seen no movement on what you’ve reported, you also have the option to post your redressal case ID in the Google Business Profile Community help forum to ask a product expert to consider escalating your case.

        2. Treat credential content as central rather than as an afterthought

        On your website, social profiles, and in areas of your listings like Google Updates (formerly known as Google Posts), create content that explains what your credentials are, and why you have them. Too often, service providers’ sites simply have a license number in the header or footer, with no explanation of why it matters. Build core content that educates potential customers as to what legal requirements there are in your field for licensed or credentialed providers, and take the opportunity to warn your community against spammers and scammers by teaching people to ask to see credentials before they hire anyone.

        3. Don’t abandon business cards and fridge magnets

        Tech news might make you think that everything has to happen online these days, but the truth is, being generous with handing out business cards, magnets, car stickers, and other tangible marketing assets with your contact and credential information on them is a great way to ensure customers come back to you in a moment of stress, instead of going with another random provider they find online. The oil change business I go to always places a little transparent window cling on my car that is branded with their name, contact info, and the date I should come in for my next service. Any service provider can offer a physical reminder to the customer of whom they should trust when the time comes.

        4. Build a simple referral program

          This is very easy to do when your business is a cafe or grocery store that locals visit on a regular basis. Offering a free cup of coffee after a customer’s fifth visit or a coupon for ½ off dinner with a friend is simple. But when you are in a YMYL category, chances are good that the same customer isn’t going to need you on a regular basis. What you want is for them to share your good name with their friends and family in advance of the need arising, and a branded merchandise campaign could be one good option for accomplishing this.

          For example, imagine you own an auto glass repair company. You might invest in branded stainless steel water bottles that people can take in their cars instead of plastic. Your branding can include your name, phone number, address, and credentials, as well as your logo. When completing a job for a customer, you could let them know you have a special offer of one of these bottles if they agree to give a second one to a local friend or family member. You’ll not only be reducing plastic consumption in your community, but you’ll also be getting your brand name into people’s cars so that they remember it right away if their car window gets damaged. A plumber might offer a toilet brush set. A locksmith might offer a cool keychain charm. The point is to get your trusted name into the hands of your neighbors when they need you, making them safer from scammers and earning you new business.

          In sum, you have some options for reporting online spam to Google, but your strongest bet will be to build real-world relationships with the people in your community so that they learn to trust you and recommend you to their circle.

          Local listing and review spam harms communities, and AI is likely to take scams to as-yet-undreamt-of levels. While the internet is an amazing tool for finding things, it cannot replace the offline social contract of trust that surrounds time-honored word-of-mouth recommendations amongst family and friends. When your money or life is on the line, or if your business provides services for people with urgent, unexpected needs, trust is a must.

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Why We Are Always ‘Clicking to Buy’, According to Psychologists

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Why We Are Always 'Clicking to Buy', According to Psychologists

Amazon pillows.

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A deeper dive into data, personalization and Copilots

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A deeper dive into data, personalization and Copilots

Salesforce launched a collection of new, generative AI-related products at Connections in Chicago this week. They included new Einstein Copilots for marketers and merchants and Einstein Personalization.

To better understand, not only the potential impact of the new products, but the evolving Salesforce architecture, we sat down with Bobby Jania, CMO, Marketing Cloud.

Dig deeper: Salesforce piles on the Einstein Copilots

Salesforce’s evolving architecture

It’s hard to deny that Salesforce likes coming up with new names for platforms and products (what happened to Customer 360?) and this can sometimes make the observer wonder if something is brand new, or old but with a brand new name. In particular, what exactly is Einstein 1 and how is it related to Salesforce Data Cloud?

“Data Cloud is built on the Einstein 1 platform,” Jania explained. “The Einstein 1 platform is our entire Salesforce platform and that includes products like Sales Cloud, Service Cloud — that it includes the original idea of Salesforce not just being in the cloud, but being multi-tenancy.”

Data Cloud — not an acquisition, of course — was built natively on that platform. It was the first product built on Hyperforce, Salesforce’s new cloud infrastructure architecture. “Since Data Cloud was on what we now call the Einstein 1 platform from Day One, it has always natively connected to, and been able to read anything in Sales Cloud, Service Cloud [and so on]. On top of that, we can now bring in, not only structured but unstructured data.”

That’s a significant progression from the position, several years ago, when Salesforce had stitched together a platform around various acquisitions (ExactTarget, for example) that didn’t necessarily talk to each other.

“At times, what we would do is have a kind of behind-the-scenes flow where data from one product could be moved into another product,” said Jania, “but in many of those cases the data would then be in both, whereas now the data is in Data Cloud. Tableau will run natively off Data Cloud; Commerce Cloud, Service Cloud, Marketing Cloud — they’re all going to the same operational customer profile.” They’re not copying the data from Data Cloud, Jania confirmed.

Another thing to know is tit’s possible for Salesforce customers to import their own datasets into Data Cloud. “We wanted to create a federated data model,” said Jania. “If you’re using Snowflake, for example, we more or less virtually sit on your data lake. The value we add is that we will look at all your data and help you form these operational customer profiles.”

Let’s learn more about Einstein Copilot

“Copilot means that I have an assistant with me in the tool where I need to be working that contextually knows what I am trying to do and helps me at every step of the process,” Jania said.

For marketers, this might begin with a campaign brief developed with Copilot’s assistance, the identification of an audience based on the brief, and then the development of email or other content. “What’s really cool is the idea of Einstein Studio where our customers will create actions [for Copilot] that we hadn’t even thought about.”

Here’s a key insight (back to nomenclature). We reported on Copilot for markets, Copilot for merchants, Copilot for shoppers. It turns out, however, that there is just one Copilot, Einstein Copilot, and these are use cases. “There’s just one Copilot, we just add these for a little clarity; we’re going to talk about marketing use cases, about shoppers’ use cases. These are actions for the marketing use cases we built out of the box; you can build your own.”

It’s surely going to take a little time for marketers to learn to work easily with Copilot. “There’s always time for adoption,” Jania agreed. “What is directly connected with this is, this is my ninth Connections and this one has the most hands-on training that I’ve seen since 2014 — and a lot of that is getting people using Data Cloud, using these tools rather than just being given a demo.”

What’s new about Einstein Personalization

Salesforce Einstein has been around since 2016 and many of the use cases seem to have involved personalization in various forms. What’s new?

“Einstein Personalization is a real-time decision engine and it’s going to choose next-best-action, next-best-offer. What is new is that it’s a service now that runs natively on top of Data Cloud.” A lot of real-time decision engines need their own set of data that might actually be a subset of data. “Einstein Personalization is going to look holistically at a customer and recommend a next-best-action that could be natively surfaced in Service Cloud, Sales Cloud or Marketing Cloud.”

Finally, trust

One feature of the presentations at Connections was the reassurance that, although public LLMs like ChatGPT could be selected for application to customer data, none of that data would be retained by the LLMs. Is this just a matter of written agreements? No, not just that, said Jania.

“In the Einstein Trust Layer, all of the data, when it connects to an LLM, runs through our gateway. If there was a prompt that had personally identifiable information — a credit card number, an email address — at a mimum, all that is stripped out. The LLMs do not store the output; we store the output for auditing back in Salesforce. Any output that comes back through our gateway is logged in our system; it runs through a toxicity model; and only at the end do we put PII data back into the answer. There are real pieces beyond a handshake that this data is safe.”

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Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads (And How To Fix It)

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Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads (And How To Fix It)

Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To

You ask the head of marketing how the team is doing and get a giant thumbs up. 👍

“Our MQLs are up!”

“Website conversion rates are at an all-time high!”

“Email click rates have never been this good!”

But when you ask the head of sales the same question, you get the response that echoes across sales desks worldwide — the leads from marketing suck. 

If you’re in this boat, you’re not alone. The issue of “leads from marketing suck” is a common situation in most organizations. In a HubSpot survey, only 9.1% of salespeople said leads they received from marketing were of very high quality.

Why do sales teams hate marketing-generated leads? And how can marketers help their sales peers fall in love with their leads? 

Let’s dive into the answers to these questions. Then, I’ll give you my secret lead gen kung-fu to ensure your sales team loves their marketing leads. 

Marketers Must Take Ownership

“I’ve hit the lead goal. If sales can’t close them, it’s their problem.”

How many times have you heard one of your marketers say something like this? When your teams are heavily siloed, it’s not hard to see how they get to this mindset — after all, if your marketing metrics look strong, they’ve done their part, right?

Not necessarily. 

The job of a marketer is not to drive traffic or even leads. The job of the marketer is to create messaging and offers that lead to revenue. Marketing is not a 100-meter sprint — it’s a relay race. The marketing team runs the first leg and hands the baton to sales to sprint to the finish.

​​

via GIPHY

To make leads valuable beyond the vanity metric of watching your MQLs tick up, you need to segment and nurture them. Screen the leads to see if they meet the parameters of your ideal customer profile. If yes, nurture them to find out how close their intent is to a sale. Only then should you pass the leads to sales. 

Lead Quality Control is a Bitter Pill that Works

Tighter quality control might reduce your overall MQLs. Still, it will ensure only the relevant leads go to sales, which is a win for your team and your organization.

This shift will require a mindset shift for your marketing team: instead of living and dying by the sheer number of MQLs, you need to create a collaborative culture between sales and marketing. Reinforce that “strong” marketing metrics that result in poor leads going to sales aren’t really strong at all.  

When you foster this culture of collaboration and accountability, it will be easier for the marketing team to receive feedback from sales about lead quality without getting defensive. 

Remember, the sales team is only holding marketing accountable so the entire organization can achieve the right results. It’s not sales vs marketing — it’s sales and marketing working together to get a great result. Nothing more, nothing less. 

We’ve identified the problem and where we need to go. So, how you do you get there?

Fix #1: Focus On High ROI Marketing Activities First

What is more valuable to you:

  • One more blog post for a few more views? 
  • One great review that prospective buyers strongly relate to?

Hopefully, you’ll choose the latter. After all, talking to customers and getting a solid testimonial can help your sales team close leads today.  Current customers talking about their previous issues, the other solutions they tried, why they chose you, and the results you helped them achieve is marketing gold.

On the other hand, even the best blog content will take months to gain enough traction to impact your revenue.

Still, many marketers who say they want to prioritize customer reviews focus all their efforts on blog content and other “top of the funnel” (Awareness, Acquisition, and Activation) efforts. 

The bottom half of the growth marketing funnel (Retention, Reputation, and Revenue) often gets ignored, even though it’s where you’ll find some of the highest ROI activities.

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Most marketers know retaining a customer is easier than acquiring a new one. But knowing this and working with sales on retention and account expansion are two different things. 

When you start focusing on retention, upselling, and expansion, your entire organization will feel it, from sales to customer success. These happier customers will increase your average account value and drive awareness through strong word of mouth, giving you one heck of a win/win.

Winning the Retention, Reputation, and Referral game also helps feed your Awareness, Acquisition, and Activation activities:

  • Increasing customer retention means more dollars stay within your organization to help achieve revenue goals and fund lead gen initiatives.
  • A fully functioning referral system lowers your customer acquisition cost (CAC) because these leads are already warm coming in the door.
  • Case studies and reviews are powerful marketing assets for lead gen and nurture activities as they demonstrate how you’ve solved identical issues for other companies.

Remember that the bottom half of your marketing and sales funnel is just as important as the top half. After all, there’s no point pouring leads into a leaky funnel. Instead, you want to build a frictionless, powerful growth engine that brings in the right leads, nurtures them into customers, and then delights those customers to the point that they can’t help but rave about you.

So, build a strong foundation and start from the bottom up. You’ll find a better return on your investment. 

Fix #2: Join Sales Calls to Better Understand Your Target Audience

You can’t market well what you don’t know how to sell.

Your sales team speaks directly to customers, understands their pain points, and knows the language they use to talk about those pains. Your marketing team needs this information to craft the perfect marketing messaging your target audience will identify with.

When marketers join sales calls or speak to existing customers, they get firsthand introductions to these pain points. Often, marketers realize that customers’ pain points and reservations are very different from those they address in their messaging. 

Once you understand your ideal customers’ objections, anxieties, and pressing questions, you can create content and messaging to remove some of these reservations before the sales call. This effort removes a barrier for your sales team, resulting in more SQLs.

Fix #3: Create Collateral That Closes Deals

One-pagers, landing pages, PDFs, decks — sales collateral could be anything that helps increase the chance of closing a deal. Let me share an example from Lean Labs. 

Our webinar page has a CTA form that allows visitors to talk to our team. Instead of a simple “get in touch” form, we created a drop-down segmentation based on the user’s challenge and need. This step helps the reader feel seen, gives them hope that they’ll receive real value from the interaction, and provides unique content to users based on their selection.

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So, if they select I need help with crushing it on HubSpot, they’ll get a landing page with HubSpot-specific content (including a video) and a meeting scheduler. 

Speaking directly to your audience’s needs and pain points through these steps dramatically increases the chances of them booking a call. Why? Because instead of trusting that a generic “expert” will be able to help them with their highly specific problem, they can see through our content and our form design that Lean Labs can solve their most pressing pain point. 

Fix #4: Focus On Reviews and Create an Impact Loop

A lot of people think good marketing is expensive. You know what’s even more expensive? Bad marketing

To get the best ROI on your marketing efforts, you need to create a marketing machine that pays for itself. When you create this machine, you need to think about two loops: the growth loop and the impact loop.

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  • Growth loop — Awareness ➡ Acquisition ➡ Activation ➡ Revenue ➡ Awareness: This is where most marketers start. 
  • Impact loop — Results ➡ Reviews ➡ Retention ➡ Referrals ➡ Results: This is where great marketers start. 

Most marketers start with their growth loop and then hope that traction feeds into their impact loop. However, the reality is that starting with your impact loop is going to be far more likely to set your marketing engine up for success

Let me share a client story to show you what this looks like in real life.

Client Story: 4X Website Leads In A Single Quarter

We partnered with a health tech startup looking to grow their website leads. One way to grow website leads is to boost organic traffic, of course, but any organic play is going to take time. If you’re playing the SEO game alone, quadrupling conversions can take up to a year or longer.

But we did it in a single quarter. Here’s how.

We realized that the startup’s demos were converting lower than industry standards. A little more digging showed us why: our client was new enough to the market that the average person didn’t trust them enough yet to want to invest in checking out a demo. So, what did we do?

We prioritized the last part of the funnel: reputation.

We ran a 5-star reputation campaign to collect reviews. Once we had the reviews we needed, we showcased them at critical parts of the website and then made sure those same reviews were posted and shown on other third-party review platforms. 

Remember that reputation plays are vital, and they’re one of the plays startups often neglect at best and ignore at worst. What others say about your business is ten times more important than what you say about yourself

By providing customer validation at critical points in the buyer journey, we were able to 4X the website leads in a single quarter!

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So, when you talk to customers, always look for opportunities to drive review/referral conversations and use them in marketing collateral throughout the buyer journey. 

Fix #5: Launch Phantom Offers for Higher Quality Leads 

You may be reading this post thinking, okay, my lead magnets and offers might be way off the mark, but how will I get the budget to create a new one that might not even work?

It’s an age-old issue: marketing teams invest way too much time and resources into creating lead magnets that fail to generate quality leads

One way to improve your chances of success, remain nimble, and stay aligned with your audience without breaking the bank is to create phantom offers, i.e., gauge the audience interest in your lead magnet before you create them.

For example, if you want to create a “World Security Report” for Chief Security Officers, don’t do all the research and complete the report as Step One. Instead, tease the offer to your audience before you spend time making it. Put an offer on your site asking visitors to join the waitlist for this report. Then wait and see how that phantom offer converts. 

This is precisely what we did for a report by Allied Universal that ended up generating 80 conversions before its release.

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The best thing about a phantom offer is that it’s a win/win scenario: 

  • Best case: You get conversions even before you create your lead magnet.
  • Worst case: You save resources by not creating a lead magnet no one wants.  

Remember, You’re On The Same Team 

We’ve talked a lot about the reasons your marketing leads might suck. However, remember that it’s not all on marketers, either. At the end of the day, marketing and sales professionals are on the same team. They are not in competition with each other. They are allies working together toward a common goal. 

Smaller companies — or anyone under $10M in net new revenue — shouldn’t even separate sales and marketing into different departments. These teams need to be so in sync with one another that your best bet is to align them into a single growth team, one cohesive front with a single goal: profitable customer acquisition.

Interested in learning more about the growth marketing mindset? Check out the Lean Labs Growth Playbook that’s helped 25+ B2B SaaS marketing teams plan, budget, and accelerate growth.


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